Getting Hitched Freestyle: Norwegian Cruise Line to offer legal weddings at sea. (NCL)

One of the draws to cruise travel is the romance of being in love and at sea.  An almost cliché image is that of a ships captain performing a wedding for passengers.  However with few exceptions, captains have been prohibited from doing so.  The reasons range from simply keeping the busy ship masters from being bogged down by passenger requests to the basic legality of doing so.  Most lines offer the ability to get married onboard a cruise ship before it departs, but these tend to require the bride, groom and guests to rush aboard and finish within an hour or two. 

Enter Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) who will offer legal weddings at sea, performed by the ships captain beginning in the fall of 2015.  For an added price which includes the services of a wedding planner and cake among other ceremonial trappings, couples can be wed.  The line is also offering ceremonies before the cruise beginning and at select ports of call.  One can also enjoy a strictly symbolic ceremony which has no legal standing.  The marriage licenses for weddings at sea will be from the Bahamas and are recognized as legal in the United States. 

Tobago News

The 65,000 person island of Tobago, half of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, sent a delegation to Washington D.C. this spring to seeking information as they begin work toward a dedicated cruise facility.  Tobago is located deep in the southern Caribbean and is actually outside of the traditional hurricane belt.  Far smaller than Trinidad, Tobago looks to tap into the cruise trade more deeply but faces constraints due to aging and limited facilities. 

The 1.2 million combined residents enjoy one of the most modern nations in the Caribbean.  Independent since 1962 when the British ceded control to their acquisition from the Spanish in 1802, Trinidad and Tobago are stunning islands whose wealth is often surprising to visitors.  Beyond tourism the islands are profiting greatly from oil and agricultural exports such as sugar.  The republic residents rate as the third wealthiest individually behind the U.S. and Canada with a GDP over $21,000 per capita. 

Carnival News

The Germans and Italians will be whipping up far more than kraut and pasta as Carnival’s nine ship order starts into motion at the Meyer Werft and Fincantieri yards.  The lot of ships, including a rare, little detailed new design for Carnival are due to start coming online between 2019 and 2022.  The new tonnage will replace at least seven older ships leaving service during the next three years.  The newer ships will be larger than those they likely replace, leading to higher efficiency in operating costs and will likewise boast the latest features not possible on their predecessors.  The dip in overall capacity should also aid in stiffening prices in the traditional Caribbean market while the new ships will command a higher per diem when they come online.  What comes of the retire cruise ships is unknown.  While it is likely some will find service in other lines the age and size of the most likely candidates would suggest the scrap yard for at least a few. 

Celebrity News

Celebrity will unleash eighteen original shows in eighteen months aboard the lines ships over the next two years.  “We are continuing to raise the bar by unveiling an array of shows that vary from groundbreaking and contemporary to magnificent and beautiful—all with lighthearted and humorous story lines, popular music and unique choreography,” said Celebrity's Becky Thomson-Foley, director of entertainment.  Celerity has pushed the envelope of cutting edge entertainment as it has grown.  Many will remember the addition of Cirque Du Soleil shows and experiences to ships over ten years ago.  However rolling out so many shows across so many ships in such a short time is a huge undertaking.

Main stage shows on cruise ships are not easy or cheap to produce.  They represent large investments by any cruise line and the very best provide experiences that can be the stuff of conversation for years after passengers disembark.  A standard new show could cost a cruise line as much as 1.7 million dollars as benchmarked against a current Royal Caribbean show aboard several Voyager and Freedom class ships.  This price includes costumes, sets, music rights and arrangements, etc.  Ongoing costs for cast and musicians is an entirely different and additional matter.  A single show might be copied to several ships, the cast and crew for each effectively training their replacements with limited guidance from the shore based management.  Each show is tracked for popularity and appeal and at some point it has to be replaced.  Ideally most shows last several years, which is feasible because most cruiser passengers won’t travel on the same ship more often than that.  If a show fails outright with passengers it represents an even larger one for the cruise line.  The capacity of a ship to support the newest concepts in ship-board shows is also a growing factor and another pressure on the lines to replace smaller, older ships quickly.

Just this past March Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, mother company of it’s namesake Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, opened a massive facility dubbed “The Studio” at Florida International University.  Able to host over 450 cast members in a 130,000 building, the venue represents a huge investment in bringing business-like efficiencies to the cumbersome process of creating new shows.  With lines such as Celebrity committing to opening eighteen new shows in as many months the investment will shoulder the burden of producing numerous and higher quality entertainment.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines News

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ “Black Watch” began itineraries from Liverpool at the close of March.  Itineraries range from thirteen to eighteen days with destinations including Dublin and the Canary Islands.  “This year, the City of Liverpool will welcome our most iconic ship, Black Watch, to its shores, and we look forward to receiving the same warm reception from the people of Merseyside as her sister ship, Boudicca, has experienced over the past two years. With its stunning vistas and proud maritime heritage, there is something very special about cruising from Liverpool, and it is a tremendous benefit to be able to offer our guests the chance to set sail from the world-famous Pier Head” said Nathan Philpot, sales and marketing director for the line.

To begin, one has to know some things about Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.  They are a subsidiary of the Fred.Olsen Group, founded in 1848.  They are based in the UK, owned by the founding family of Norwegians.  The same company owns Timex and is involved in off shore oil drilling, air travel and tanker ships.  However they have over a century of heritage in passenger travel and are among the oldest companies still plying the trade as a cruise line.  They boast only four ships at present, all would be considered “classic” in their design.  In lay terms, this means most of these ships have fewer than 2,000 passengers and were built in the late 1980s through mid-1990s.  Well maintained and highly respected they carry names long known to the venerable line such as “Black Watch” and “Balmoral.”   So as one watches news and announcements from Fred.Olsen realize that this is a small and unique line.

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